As many of you know, on April 23rd 2017 the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) announced in an Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (EISPN) that it plans to tear out the Haʻikū Stairs. This notice (see link) triggers a 30-day comment period, during which time the public can express their opinions on the project. Of particular importance is identifying issues not mentioned in the EISPN that you feel should be discussed in the EIS. The BWS is required to address in the EIS all relevant issues brought up during this comment period.
In our review, the FHS Board of Directors has identified the following important issues, which we will be including in our comments:
1. While the EISPN mentions environmental impacts to be examined caused by the removal of the Stairs, there is no mention of the incalculable loss of this irreplaceable recreational, educational, historic, and cultural resource – as if they could simply tear it out and no one would miss it. Above all, the City is the public steward of its resources, and it cannot simply walk away from this responsibility because it’s inconvenient for them.
2. The EISPN identifies a “conveyance alternative” to be explored, which entails turning over the Stairs to another government agency or private entity to run. Which is fine, but they overlook the simplest and most straightforward solution: having BWS hire a contractor to run the Stairs. The BWS, through their contractor, could charge an admission fee sufficient to cover all operating, maintenance, and management costs, and the contractor would be responsible for all liability.
3. The EISPN states that they intend to examine only one alternative access route to the Stairs: through Windward Community College and Hawaii State Hospital. At the very least, BWS should examine the original route to the Stairs: straight up Haʻikū Road, with parking in the old USCG Omega Station parking lot.
4. BWS has repeatedly stated the ~$160,000/year security guard expense as one of their main reasons for removing the Stairs – as if safeguarding the taxpayer’s money is a top priority for them. If that’s the case, why did the City spend approximately $1 million in 2002 to repair the Stairs? Why spend more than $500,000 now on an EIS consultant, just to get legal permission to tear out the Stairs? And worst of all, why spend an estimated $3-5 million to destroy a resource that has brought joy and wonder to more than a million people? Normally governments spend this kind of money to create a world-class attraction.
We need to hold our public officials accountable for the way they spend their time, and our money. It is high time that the Stairs were reopened for all to enjoy.
Comments from the public are an integral part of this process. Please send your comments, which are due by May 23rd, to both the City’s accepting authority at HaikuStairsEIS@Honolulu.gov, and to their EIS consultant at email@example.com. We sincerely thank you for your time.
UPDATE: Neighborhood Board APPROVES resolution
On June 15th 2017 the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board considered the resolution on the Haiku Stairs, and approved it on a 9-0 vote with one abstention. Please bear in mind that the BWS is still conducting their EIS, which could take months.
Please note that the stairs remain closed at this time. Our organization has been disallowed volunteer maintenance access by the BWS. Despite this, we maintain our insurance policy for volunteer maintenance climbs and are optimistic for the future.